The Retreat from Ilovaisk

Five years ago, I covered the Russian invasion of Ukraine a little tiny bit. Five years on and Russia has formally annexed Crimea and Russian “patriotic volunteers” continue to destabilise the Donbass. About two weeks ago, this article from the BBC caught my eye as it recounted the story of Ukraine’s deadliest day in the conflict. Initially I read it simply because I have long been fascinated by that undeclared war.

Since at least high school, but probably most definitely earlier, I have long been interested in military history. And I distinctly recall being awestruck by maps depicting the bombing of Pearl Harbour, or the Roman defeat at Cannae, or the Battle of Waterloo.

So I loved scrolling through the article and finding this graphic.

A long and bloody road
A long and bloody road

It’s a fairly simple map, showing the alignment of forces. It’s not quite a tactical map showing unit size/formations, but it does show the Ukrainian forces essentially surrounded. And how their retreat brought them through essentially a shooting gallery of Russian artillery.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

Ukraine Retreats from Debaltseve

This is a short piece—it is only really an inline map—but it illustrates fairly well why Ukraine’s loss of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine last week is kind of a big deal. Basically, the now mostly abandoned city is a transport hub linking the two quasi capitals of the Novorossiya.

Rebel-controlled area

Credit for the piece goes to Gene Thorp.

Population Displacement in Ukraine

Ukraine continues to suffer the effects of a Russian invasion. Though we won’t call it that. This piece from Radio Free Europe looks at the displaced persons in the country. Unfortunately, it is not quite the best example of what to do.

Displacement in Ukraine
Displacement in Ukraine

The line chart looks at the cumulative number of displaced persons. But, a monthly growth or absolute number for that month would tell a different story. See below. Hint, it slowed down, and then got pretty bad again.

Monthly population change
Monthly population change

I am also not a fan of labelling every data point on the map. Maybe call out a few interesting ones, the outliers perhaps. But do we need to know to the person how many people are in Ternopil. Probably not.

Credit for the piece goes to the graphics department of Radio Free Europe.

Cancelling the Mistral

In a piece of big news about Ukraine yesterday, the French government announced that it was halting the completion of the sale of two Mistral warships to Russia. The first such ship, the Sevastopol (yes, named after said city in Crimea), was due to be delivered in just over a month’s time. The two ships (the other named Vladivostok) would have given Russia the ability to launch amphibious invasions. The reason why this action was not taken earlier? Jobs. The construction of the two ships in French shipyards are a boon to the French economy. But after the recent “incursion” of Russian troops into Donetsk and Luhansk, Paris ultimately reconsidered the deal.

The Wall Street journal provides the graphic illustrating just how potent one of the ships would be.

Mistral design
Mistral design

Credit for the piece goes to the Wall Street Journal graphics department.

What Else Has Been Shot Down in Ukraine

The Boeing 777 jetliner was not the first nor even at this point the latest aircraft shot down over eastern Ukraine. Just yesterday, two Sukhoi Su-25 aircraft were shot down—the Ukrainian government claims from medium-altitude surface-to-air missiles fired from within Russia. While I was working on drawing something up to catalogue just what has been shot down, I stumbled upon this piece from the Washington Post that does just that.

Planes shot down by the separatists

Credit for the piece goes to Gene Thorp.

Restricted Airspace

One of the questions in the wake of last week’s shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is why was the aircraft even flying over eastern Ukraine? Generally speaking, because it was not banned from doing so. In today’s graphic, the Washington Post takes a look at those areas that the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restricts flights or warns against travel due to hostile threats, e.g. war. Also note that the Post has included Ben Gurion Airport, which is still under the 24-hour period ban because of a Hamas rocket landing a mile away from the airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

FAA restriction areas
FAA restriction areas

Credit for the piece goes to Katie Park, Kevin Schaul, and Gene Thorp.

The Air Defence Systems of Eastern Ukraine

Last week, separatists in eastern Ukraine shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with what appears to have been an SA-11 Gadfly missile. Separatists had previously claimed to have had this system in operation and days earlier shot down a high-altitude Ukrainian military aircraft—though not necessarily with the SA-11. How much more powerful is the SA-11 than the other two known surface-to-air missile systems the separatists have used to shoot down Ukrainian military helicopter and aircraft? Well, I decided to create a small graphic to show you that the SA-11 is a significant advancement over the shorter range systems in use up to now.

Eastern Ukrainian SAM systems
Eastern Ukrainian SAM systems

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Talk about an airline with bad luck this year. Malaysia Airlines—yes of the missing flight in the Indian Ocean fame—lost another aircraft yesterday as separatists in eastern Ukraine allegedly shot it down with an SA-11 Gadfly surface-to-air missile. For those unaware, that is a much more deadly and capable system than the shoulder-launched missiles separatists have been using to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft. (In my non-expert opinion, the separatists probably thought they were doing just that, shooting down a Ukrainian transport plane.)

In short, there is quite a bit going on in eastern Ukraine today. Thankfully we have the New York Times creating a page of maps to explain the shoot-down of MH17.

Not all airlines have flown over Ukraine
Not all airlines have flown over Ukraine

Credit for the piece goes to the graphics department of the New York Times.

Where the Rebels are in Eastern Ukraine

Today’s piece is far from ground-breaking or even complex. Friday, the Wall Street Journal published this map to supplement an article about the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Poroshenko in Ukraine. The map highlights the areas effectively controlled by the rebels, the most important the unsecured border. Of course this is just a map as stated by Kiev, the reality on the ground might be different. Regardless, it is the first map I have seen that has actually tried to demarcate the territory actually under control rather than claimed.

Rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine
Rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine

Credit for the piece goes to the Wall Street Journal’s graphics department.